Carson’s Colby Blueberg struck out Spanish Springs all-league shortstop Jake Bray to start the bottom of the first inning. That’s as good as it got for the visiting Senators (20-10). From there, Spanish Springs proceeded to beat up on Blueberg, the Senators’ ace right-hander. The Cougars (23-8) battered Blueberg for eight first-inning hits. They also took advantage of a walk and Carson error in the big first frame while also getting a grand slam.
“I had a whole bunch of scenarios in my head about how this game would go and getting a nine spot in the first inning and having it capped by a grand slam was not any of them,” Spanish Springs coach Ben Hofmann said.
After Bray struck out, Tanner Oates singled. Chase Kittilsen then mashed a line drive to deep center field that was misplayed by Carson center fielder Chance Quilling. It went for a double and allowed Oates to come around to score.
Kendall Murphy and Malcolm Anderson followed with singles making it 2-0 in the Cougars’ favor. Tim Epker singled to score Murphy and when the ball got by Carson right fielder Austin Pacheco, Anderson raced home, forging Spanish Springs ahead 4-0. Spanish Springs senior catcher Kyle Clark got down a safety squeeze bunt that brought Epker home and the lead was 5-0.
A single by Garek Tauchen and a walk to Bray saturated the sacks with Cougars, but not for long. Oates hammered a ball that cleared the fence in left-center field for a grand slam to conclude the first-inning fireworks with the Sparks school holding a 9-0 advantage.
“Obviously, in that situation, everyone wants to hit a home run,” Oates said. “With the bases loaded, I just wanted to get the next guy up to bat. He gave me a pitch to hit and I hit it.”
With tournament pitching limits in effect, Carson coaches opted to cut their losses and they ended Blueberg’s day after just the rough inning.
“Colby came out and struck out the first batter. He had good stuff, but we played tight,” Carson coach Cody Farnworth said. “It’s easy to play with the lead. You can make plays. There’s no pressure on you. Kudos to them for getting that lead.
“We didn’t play to our potential and they did. We’ll have to lick our wounds and come back to play tomorrow.
Spanish Springs did not score in the second inning but it went right back to work in the third. Any slim hopes Carson had of mounting a stirring comeback were nixed when the Cougars rallied for seven runs in the third inning.
Tauchen initiated the third-inning threat by reaching on an infield single and stealing second. He scored on an Oates single. A passed ball moved Oates to second and he came plateward on an RBI single off the bat of Kittilsen, leaving the scoreboard to read 11-0. Anderson was issued a free pass and Epker was hit by a pitch, again loading the bases for Spanish Springs.
And again, they weren’t loaded for long. Clark launched a grand slam of his, propelling his team to a 15-0 lead. Later in the third, Matt Mannens walked, advanced on a passed ball and scored on a run-scoring single by Tauchen. That made it 16-0 and capped the Cougars’ scoring parade.
“I just went up there looking to hit whatever I got thrown my way,” Clark said. “That’s one of the most special feelings you can get. It’s great to energize your teammates like that.”
Meanwhile, Anderson was busy putting up zeroes on the Carson side of the scoreboard. The Cougars’ senior right-hander turned in the five-inning complete-game shutout. He limited the Senators to three hits while striking out two and walking one. He got plenty of help from his teammates. The Cougars did not commit an error and made a handful of tough plays behind him in a sterling defensive effort.
“Malcolm did a great job of getting three outs and moving on each inning,” Hofmann said. “He was complaining that he didn’t have much velocity on his stuff, but he had good movement. If he had to sacrifice a little velocity for movement, we’ll take it every time.”
The victory was just the second in six first-round playoff games in the brief 10-year history of Spanish Springs High. The Cougars now advance to a winners’ bracket battle against Reno (26-6), a 10-2 first-round winner over Damonte Ranch, today at 3 p.m. at RHS.